Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who will surely address the economic changes that the NDP would make to the nutrition north Canada program.
Although I am quite familiar with those economic considerations, I am not necessarily going to speak about them. Instead, I am going to discuss the elements associated with food insecurity and its potential social implications.
The opportunity I have been given to support the motion by my colleague from Northwest Territories will allow me to talk in more detail about one of those elements in particular, and that is the need to work with all northerners to come up with a sustainable solution to food insecurity.
Those who are paying attention have seen that this study consists of three parts. The same is true of the speech I am going to give today. I am going to talk about collaborative work, northerners and food insecurity.
Strangely enough, over the past four years, we have sometimes talked about these three things together and sometimes individually. I have talked about them in my speeches and so have my colleagues. They are some of the current issues that best show what the Conservative government is all about.
The UN special rapporteur on the right to food has visited Canada in recent years, and I had the opportunity to meet with him. I also showed him some photos, including one of a two-litre bottle of pop on sale for $1 in July, on a remote reserve, Uashat.
Earlier, I heard my colleagues talk about subsidies for chips and Pepsi. These products are already available at very low prices in remote communities. Strangely enough, fast food lobby groups have this government's attention, and they find a way to reach these communities and bring in their products.
In the far north it is easy to find two-litre bottles of pop for $1 in July, but do not even think about finding two litres of milk at that price. The prices are ridiculous. There is a double standard here. Corporatism has really taken over.
Major corporations have control and can obviously afford to send their cheap products to remote regions. I do not know whether they are losing money in the process. However, fast food and processed foods end up making their way to the far north.
I want to come back to food insecurity. That is one of the things that was submitted to the UN rapporteur. When we talk about food security, that means a balanced, nutritious diet. In this case, I am also thinking about the children who are morbidly obese at a very young age. I do not know if that term can even apply to a child, but in any case, it is obvious that many children, often seen eating bags of chips, are overweight.
On my home reserve, you will find plenty of bags of chips. I worked for the territorial resources and parks services when I was younger. My job was to empty the outdoor garbage bins, and I can confirm that my garbage bags were often full of empty pop and chip containers. As soon as kids have a few bucks in their pockets, they go and buy chips. That is another aspect of food security. We need to ensure that balanced, nutritious food is available at affordable prices in remote communities.
The key question here regarding the legislative tool before us is wether the nutrition north Canada program is working. The program was implemented in April 2011 with the aim of making healthy food—and I want to emphasize the healthy food aspect—more accessible and more affordable for people living in remote, northern communities.
Even though we are talking about healthy food, we also need to understand that beer brewers are going to these communities too. Alcoholic beverages are available at very low cost. I mentioned that to the UN rapporteur because in my community, there are 1.2 litre products with 10% alcohol. Consuming such products really muddles people up for the rest of the day. Those products are very cheap. The beer brewers' lobby also has ways to reach remote communities.
Some segments of the industry have clearly found ways to make ends meet and get into those communities. Healthy food is also part of the calculation according to my analysis, and I mentioned that during a presentation by representatives of Beer Canada, who came to talk to me about a program to fight fetal alcohol syndrome. I told them that market studies had probably been done before making those products available for sale in remote communities.
Depending on the demographics of their neighbourhoods, I challenge my colleagues to find these products where they live. In my community, people call them bombs: 1.2 litres of 10% alcohol. My colleagues are highly unlikely to find this stuff at their corner store or supermarket, but where I come from, it is everywhere. People who are addicted to alcohol buy these products, and it wreaks havoc. It is pretty much everywhere in my community. I am quite sure that market studies were done on this.
In keeping with the corporatist ideals that have spawned too many of this government's initiatives, nutrition north Canada is a transfer payments program based on a market model. Let us draw a parallel with corporatism. I did not take much of an interest in policy before I came here. However, in recent years, what has emerged is that the government is trying to control and manage the country like a corporate entity. Too often the Conservatives—and possibly the Liberals—apply the same yardsticks, the same standards and the same ideals as a CEO who is managing a major corporation.
The government has a marked tendency to view public policy making like managing a corporate entity. The nutrition north Canada program is no exception. We see that the subsidies and programs that are supposed to help deliver and provide healthy food will first and foremost benefit the corporate entities rather than the people. That is the basis for the NDP position. We must ensure that the people and their nutrition are top of mind. The people must benefit, not the corporations. What we are seeing right now is that the corporations benefit the most and the people not as much.
The nutrition north Canada program has a fixed annual budget of $60 million, $53.9 million of which is allocated annually as a subsidy. That subsidy is paid directly to the food retailers, suppliers, distributors and processors in the north under contribution agreements. Was the word “citizen” included in that list? No, we are talking here about retailers, suppliers, distributors and processors, people who are already on a sound financial footing. One's financial footing also dictates one's ability to buy healthy food and eat properly. If a litre of milk costs $6, then families are going to buy a two-litre bottle of Pepsi to put on the table, as we are seeing in family homes in my riding. Pop will win out, because a litre of water or milk is too expensive. The choice is easy. Then comes the glucose and fructose and people develop diabetes. There is a correlation here. When we talk about healthy eating, all this socio-economic information has to be taken into account.
In closing, I want to mention the need for a comprehensive review of the nutrition north Canada program in co-operation with northerners in order to determine ways of directly providing the subsidy to northern residents and improve supports for traditional foods. The important part of what I just said was “in co-operation with northerners”. Therein lies the problem with the public policy in 2015. The government has often failed to consult the public. The Conservatives think that public consultation is a barrier to economic expansion. In this case, it would take time to consult the public regarding the review of the nutrition north Canada program, and some people feel like it would be too much work.
The industrial, food processing and fast food lobbies are likely not in favour of it either. Unlike community groups, we know that these major lobbies, these big pressure groups, have the government's ear.
The next government, an NDP government, will make sure that northerners are involved in the process so that the program is culturally relevant.
I submit this respectfully.